This week’s striking cover by Doug Zider brings to mind multiple meanings, primarily evoking the pure, mystical world of King Arthur. Called “Lake at Avalon,” the image recalls the place where Arthur got back his famous sword. While Lake Avalon is not real, Zider’s setting suggests a place of purity where dreams can come true. Oddly enough, this characterization alone seems to convey the artist’s worldview as well: “purist” to the core, where solitude and intimacy reign. Other works by Zider signify similar feelings. Consider his “The Bay’s August Eve,” wherein marshlands in the foreground and a glorious sunlit sky explode with abstract designs. Or his “Moonlight” image, where a single boat seems both lost and very much present in the blue waters and moon above. Simply put, there’s a contradictory sense of comfort and closeness juxtaposed with all-encompassing space in many of Zider’s paintings.
Besides the reference to King Arthur, what else does your painting “Lake at Avalon” suggest to you?
It’s solitude. Nature as it is. A place where everything is not overbuilt and overgrown. It’s the wilderness.
Have you found places like this?
Arcadia National Park in Maine is one. It was the highlight of my summer. No one is around you; I can’t wait to get back. We drove up Cadillac Mountain, the highest point, but my wife got a little spooked by the climb. She got down in the front car seat as we were going up the mountain. But she was glad we made it when we got to the top. What a view.
Where else can you find such a place with nature as it is?
You can go anyplace, even your own back yard. You make a place small or it can be bigger than us, like in my seascapes.
When you paint these scenes, do you use a plein air technique?
I do it as much as I can, but I’m so familiar with the environment, I can paint something without being there. I’m now painting waves in my studio. I know exactly what they look like.
Do you ever work from photographs?
No, I don’t take photographs; I’m a terrible photographer. I respect photography, but it takes a lot of training. Besides, in painting, you can put an object anyplace.
Learning and growing as a painter is an important part of your life. For example, you go to shows at Christie’s Auction House all the time. It’s near where you work at NBC-TV.
I just dragged some people from work to see the latest show at Christie’s of 19th century art. You can take pictures of the work, go right up to the canvas, within three inches of the painting. That’s how you teach yourself about art.
What else are you teaching yourself?
I’m doing still life; I can get better at detail and how light plays on objects. I do rocks, flowers, architecture. It’s like therapy. I can concentrate more, get more intimate. There’s less to take in with still life, but more to see.
Why do you accept such challenges as doing still life?
You’ll never get better if you don’t push yourself. You have to work at something, to solve problems.
Your family is also a huge part of your life.
I have two sons, Jack and Daniel, and it’s so important for me to spend time with them. You are always a parent. It’s important to be with them as long as you can be.
What will you be doing in five years?
You’re looking at it. Although I’d like to travel to Maine and Ireland where our family is. Any place where we can live a normal life.
But you’re happy with what you’re doing now.
I love what I do. I’m at peace.